Work: A Way of Holiness
Did you know that Jesus was a lower class worker? If he were in the Philippines, he would be barely making 250 pesos ($5) per day. I think back to the way the Lord Himself was called “the son of a carpenter” in the gospels as a derogative term to mean that he was uneducated. And elsewhere, He was also called “the carpenter, the son of Mary.” This makes me reflect on the humility of God and how He has become “like us in all things, except sin.” How wonderful it is to have a God who, becoming man, has broken sweat, toiled at a blue-collar job, and gotten dirty like the ordinary laborer.
The Church, ever desirous of taking man in all his dignity, extols the value of work. In the gospels, we see the apostles called from ordinary jobs, sometimes jobs that were considered low-class by others. Most of them were fishermen, one was a tax collector, another a social activist, etc. Saint Paul, who supported himself by tent-making, sternly warned the early Christians to “work in silence” and that “he who does not work, must not eat.” Truly a source of shame for some who are espousing what Pope Francis calls a “sofa mentality.”
There is in the human person a fulfillment when he produces something or accomplishes some work. It is the primary experience that he has of the world around him. When he starts to mold something or create something out of materials and tools around him, he starts to find a sense of who he is in the world. Of course, there are other “works” that don’t involve production of some thing but a creation of something non-material.
The dancer works in the choreography he puts together, the musician by playing great music. And we also have more spiritual work, like that of the monks and nuns who sing the offices, “opus Dei”—work of God. Yes, prayer is a work too.
Here the Lord lets us in on a little secret, a way of holiness that is within reach of the average person. Yes, we may find ourselves quite ordinary. But Jesus calls us from where we are, right where we are. It is in the midst of our family life, our friendships, and our profession or job that He calls us to be holy.
How? You may protest that being holy in the way you relate to your boss is quite difficult to wrap your mind around, especially when he is being…well, being a boss! But once we start to see things differently, to see our work as a way of praying, and when we do it out of love for God and neighbor, that is the royal road to holiness right there! It just needs a little paradigm shift. “Yes, this work is cumbersome, but I am going to do it and keep at it until 5:00 p.m. because it is for Jesus,” is an excellent formula to offer this as a “pleasing sacrifice” to the Father.
Everyone is called to be holy. And that job you are in, that profession you practice, that study you do, that dish you cook for your family, your laundry, your driving, everything can be offered up to God. God calls you right there.
Written by John Wesley Galicano
John Wesley came home to the Catholic Church in 2011 after almost 10 years of estrangement. He likes books, films, the arts, and philosophy.